Hacker Grrl Behind HBGary Attack?

Could a 16 year old girl named Kayla be the mastermind behind the breach of elite security firm HBGary?

Could a 16 year old girl named Kayla be the mastermind behind the breach of elite security firm HBGary?

That’s the contention of Forbes blogger Parmy Olson, who has written up her online conversations with a purported member of the Anonymous hacker collective who goes by the online handle ‘k. ‘K identified herself to Olson as “Kayla,” a teenager from an “English speaking country” who played a pivotal role in the Anonymous attack on HBGary Federal and its CEO Aaron Barr. The hack eventually forced the resignation of Barr, and could spell the end of the firm itself.

According to Olson’s account, in the Disruptors blog, it was “Kayla” who famously posed as HBGary CEO Greg Hoglund in order to trick an IT administrator into changing a key account password, giving the group access to HBGary’s servers.

Olson says “Kayla” has been involved with Anonymous since 2008, participating in campaigns against the Church of Scientology, as well as denial of service attacks on the companies MasterCard and Paypal.

The girl’s story  reads like the plot of a graphic novel: a child of divorce, Kayla is sent to live with her engineer father in the countryside, where friends were scarce. (IT jobs in the heartland?)

Bored beyond belief, Kayla picks up hacking by reading the programming books that litter the house. Soon, she’s finding holes in C source code and SQL Server and exploiting them, teaching herself scripting languages like PERL, Python and PHP.

No surprise: Olson’s evidence to support “Kayla’s” account of things is pretty thin. Olson admits that she can’t confirm ‘k”s age or gender and that “Kayla” refused to even conduct a Skype conversation with the Forbes reporter – though such conversations needn’t give away ‘K’s online identity. ‘K/Kayla claims to do her work from USB drives and a bootable microSD card. Olson notes that other Anonymous members support her account of events. (And their names are….?) Some more evidence? Kayla’s “emails are punctuated with smiley faces and ‘lols’.”

Case closed.

The truth? Nobody has a clue whether ‘K is who she says she is. Olson acknowledges persistent rumors that the 16 year old girl is really a 20 year old man, Corey Barnhill, who uses the online handle “Xyrix” and is reported to live in New Jersey. But Kayla could be Barnhill, another Anonymous member or a six foot tall bunny rabbit, for all we know. Chalk this one up as ‘speculation.’

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